Norway’s First Hijacking

Published on June 21, 2012

In the mid-afternoon of June 21, 1985, Braathens SAFE Flight 139 took off from Trondheim Airport enroute to Oslo, Norway.  The aircraft, a Boeing 737-205 dubbed “Harald Gille” and registered as LN-SUG, carried 121 passengers and crew.  Among them was Stein Arvid Huseby, a then 24 year old Norwegian man from the town of Karmøy.

Huseby’s past was a good indication of future trouble.  Abused by his father, he was an alcoholic by age 13.  He had been arrested on multiple violent crime charges, including armed robbery.  His psychological profile indicated that his violence was a way of establishing his own identity amidst the strife and difficulty that had been his life.  Finally, at age 19, he was committed by the courts to a psychiatric institution.  After three years, in 1983, he entered a Christian school and began to turn his life around, even returning to finish his secondary school education.  He stopped drinking and was completely “dry” for two years.

Lead up to the Hijacking

Then things spiraled out of control.  Huseby started drinking again.  He started worrying that he would lose his friends as a result, which only increased his stress.  The day before the flight, he graduated school, but then that night he purchased an air pistol as he planned the hijacking.  The following afternoon, he boarded the Braathens flight at Trondheim where the airline had no significant gate security.  As a result, he was able to bring his air pistol right onto the airplane undetected.  He sat in the back row so he could easily observe everyone ahead of him and yet remain unobtrusive.  Interestingly, even when hijacking the plane, he didn’t want to panic the passengers.

Huseby Orders a Beer and Hijacks the Plane

Once the plane departed, Huseby started drinking beer — a lot of beer.  When the flight attendant came back with yet more beer, he showed her his air pistol and told her that he also had a bomb on the plane.  He told her that he didn’t want to disrupt the flight or disturb the passengers, but that he was hijacking the plane.  His terms were that he wanted to make a political statement to the Prime Minister of Norway and to the Minister of Justice, with whom he wanted to speak once they arrived at their destination.  He also wanted to hold a press conference to air his problems and get governmental and societal support for his needs.

His main grievances were that he was unhappy with how he had been treated since his release from prison; he wanted guarantees of better treatment and economic security (in other words, he needed more money from the government).  When the plane landed, for security reasons the airport authorities refused to allow it to approach the gates.  The police enlisted the aid of a psychologist and one of Huseby’s old friends for negotiations.  Meanwhile, a special forces team was readied for a possible storming of the aircraft.  An hour later, the negotiations were increasingly positive.  Huseby released 70 of the passengers as a gesture of good will, in large part because they had stated that they were going to miss their connecting flights.

As the minutes ticked by, Huseby kept asking for more beer.  He was progressively becoming more and more drunk.  The plane was allowed nearer to the gate so that the first 70 passengers could disembark to a waiting bus. Thirty minutes later, Huseby let out the rest of the passengers, but still kept the five members of the flight crew on the airplane.

Once Out of Beer, the Situation is Resolved

Things came to a head (literally and figuratively) at 6:30 pm when the flight attendants reported that they had run out of beer.  Completely drunk, Huseby’s key demand now changed — he wanted more beer, above all.  Recognizing that his drunken state was both increasing risk but also simultaneously improving their chances of ending the situation well and peacefully, the police told him that if he wanted more beer, he would have trade his pistol.  Incredibly, Huseby complied by throwing it out of the airplane window, thereby disarming himself.  Shortly afterward, as agreed, a police officer delivered a case of beer onto the airplane — most importantly, while making the delivery, the police officer assessed the actual situation within the airplane, seeking information as to whether there might actually be a bomb on board.  Seeing that Huseby didn’t have other weapons or hidden accomplices, the police officer departed and moments later, the Norwegian special forces team stormed the aircraft, capturing Huseby without firing a shot.

Thus ended Norway’s first hijacking — it was a good lesson in why increased security was needed, even at outlying airports.  Thankfully, nobody was injured throughout the entire ordeal.  Huseby was tried in court and convicted — due to his overriding psychological issues, he served only three years in prison plus five more years of “preventive supervision.”

One More Bit of Aviation Trivia

Hijacking is not a phenomenon of the modern era.  In fact, the first hijacking took place in 1931 during a revolution in Peru.  Byron Rickards was in Arequipa and was the pilot of a Ford Tri-Motor when a group of armed revolutionaries approached him and tried to seize the plane.  The revolutionaries had a problem, however, because Rickards was the only pilot around who could fly the Tri-Motor — and he refused to fly them anywhere.  Even though the revolutionaries were armed and he was not, he stood his ground and refused to cooperate for ten days.  Finally, the revolution ended — in fact, it was a success and the government of Peru was overthrown.  Rickards was then offered a simple deal — if he could fly one member of the revolutionary group up to Lima, he was free to go.  Rickards complied with that final request and departed without delay.  Since those days, hijackers have gotten a lot more sophisticated, capable and ruthless.


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